Rice transfer Egor Koulechov hopes to produce another strong effort after his dazzling debut in a Florida uniform when the seventh-ranked Gators host road-weary North Florida on Thursday night. Koulechov, who was a first team All-Conference USA pick last season, drained 6-of-9 from 3-point range en route to 34 points in a 116-74 rout of Gardner-Webb on Monday to tie the school record for scoring in the first game as a Gator.
“I’m happy this day finally came,” Koulechov, who matched Tom Baxley (1962) for the most points in a Florida debut, told reporters. “I’ve been waiting for this since I decided to come here. It’s a great environment, a great program. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you win.” The top four scorers were playing their first game in a Florida uniform, but Koulechov stole the show while adding five rebounds and five assists. “Some guys can do it in practice and can’t do it when they get in front of people, but he’s played a lot of college basketball,” Gators senior guard Chris Chiozza told reporters. “And, honestly, I was really more surprised at how many shots he missed (six).” North Florida of the Atlantic Sun completes a four-game road gauntlet to open the season after losing games to Michigan State by 32, Michigan by 20 and to VCU by 10.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, SEC Network
ABOUT NORTH FLORIDA (0-3): The Ospreys drained 17-of-40 from 3-point range against VCU and have made 37 shots from behind the arc while draining 44 percent of their attempts from long range. The top five scorers are all sophomores with Garrett Sams (16 points, 7.3 rebounds) leading the way while Ivan Gandia-Rosa (15 points, 4.3 assists, 11 made 3-pointers) and J.T. Escobar (13 points, 11-of-19 from behind the arc) also contribute. “The little details make the biggest difference and we still have a few things we just need to work on and clean up moving forward,” coach Matthew Driscoll told reporters.
ABOUT FLORIDA (1-0): Jalen Hudson, playing his first game for the Gators after transferring from Virginia Tech, scored 16 against Gardner-Webb while freshmen Deaundrae Ballard (14 points) and Mike Okauru (13 points, four assists) also had big nights in their debuts. Top-returning scorer KeVaughn Allen had a quiet opener with nine points (3-of-9 from the field), five rebounds and three assists. “The way we play, we have a system. What’s working, we go back to it,” Koulechov told reporters. “Today, it was me. The next time, it could be KeVaughn or Jalen or someone else.”
1. Chiozza, who was a game-time decision Monday with a shoulder injury, had five points, six rebounds and six assists.
2. North Florida sophomore F Wajid Aminu has struggled from the field (8-for-28), but leads the team in rebounding (8.7).
3. The Gators knocked off the Ospreys 91-60 last season and defeated them 97-68 in the NIT at the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
PREDICTION: Florida 86, North Florida 62